Saturday, September 25, 2004

Wells, Andrews, same sentence


Game on

8:30pm Sunday. Steelers/Dolphins will go on while the nation snoozes through Tampa Bay/Oakland then.

Forecast is squalls turning to showers. Terrible weather favors the lucky. If the field is a disaster, it's going to be pretty random as to who scores and who wins. The game will probably be won on a fumble by the QB returned for a TD by the defense.

Football game postponed

No makeup date yet.

We're looking at Monday or Tuesday as a best-case scenario. I wouldn't be surprised if they blow it off and then see about making it up later in the season. The teams don't share a bye so they'd have to move more than one game to match them up on a day that was a scheduled bye for either team. The league could also cancel the game completely. I doubt too many people at the league office regard either team as a likely playoff contender.

I'm just speculating, but the fact that the game was postponed with no make-up date makes me think Monday and Tuesday aren't looking too attractive right now. I'm disappointed because I love to watch football games in inclement weather. But I'm grateful I'm not in Florida and I send my best wishes to all those who call it home.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Heavy rain, high winds

Forecast for Pro Player stadium. This could be one of those games where it's just not possible to pass the ball downfield, and one of those games where the opposing players are indistinguishably mud-covered. Sounds like a good day for the under, which opened low anyway.

3,000 No-Doz

Keydrick Vincent promises to be alert in Jerry DiPaola's report on the O-line. I hope they keep the coverage of the o- and d-lines coming.

Miami, Pittsburgh all banged up

The news in Chuck Finder's notebook is pretty grim for both teams. The Steelers might be OK with those backups in the secondary, but the Dolphins, ugh, when a team is switching QBs and left tackles, you know that team is a mess.

Steelers/Miami on Monday night?

There's a small chance the game could get moved back because of the next hurricane. There are stories all over the place about this. I recommend Chuck Finder's in the Post-Gazette. There Cowher says Saturday is not a possibility.

Two million fans

That's the goal for the Bucs in the ticket-sales department, according to this report by Ed Eagle, one of the many out today on the good decision to not raise ticket prices.

They have to sell more tickets, I think, if they hope to field a championship product.

They'll also need to establish a winning record at home. Nothing encourages ticket sales better than winning at home. It's so obvious it's often overlooked.

The Bucs need to sweep Cincinnati - our last chance to see the Bucs at PNC Park starts now - to do that.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

HW NFL picks: week 3

vis sprd hme Scoop Bones Rowdy
nwo 06.5 STL ..nwo ..nwo (STL)
pit 01.5 MIA ..pit ..pit ..pit
chi 08.5 MIN ..chi (chi) (MIN)
cle 02.5 NYG ..NYG (NYG) ..NYG
arz 09.5 ATL ..ATL ..arz (ATL)
bal -2.5 CIN ..CIN ..CIN (CIN)
phl -3.5 DET (phl) (DET) ..phl
jax 05.5 TEN ..TEN (jax) ..jax
hou 08.5 KSC (KSC) ..hou ..KSC
snd 09.5 DEN ..snd ..snd (DEN)
gnb 05.5 IND ..IND ..IND ..IND
snf 10.5 SEA ..SEA (snf) ..SEA
tab 03.5 OAK ..OAK (OAK) (OAK)
dal 01.5 WAS (WAS) ..WAS ..dal

Parens indicate best bets.

Scoop 21-11
Bones 17-15
Rowdy 16-16

best bets
Rowdy 5-4
Bones 3-3
Scoop 2-4

Rowdy comments: I'll explain the best bets. The Saints and Bears head into tough domes short key personnel. I can't see them winning and without that, I can't see a good reason to expect them to cover. What else. I don't believe there is parity in the NFL. Exhibits A and B: Atlanta hosting Arizona, Denver hosting San Diego. Arizona is hapless and this line should be 21. The Bolts have problems with their front seven on defense. Now they have to worry about the Broncos' meatgrinder of an O-line breaking their legs. Yikes. The Ravens are one-dimensional on offense and Marvin Lewis is the coach to beat their defense. The Bengals beat the Ravens in Ohio last year. I expect they'll repeat that performance against a weaker Baltimore club. The fact that the Ravens are favored makes the pick even more attractive to me. Finally, the Raiders are always up for games on national television. I can't see Jon Gruden's team scoring many points against a defense led by Warren Sapp.

Bones denies using astragyromancy and recommends basic sitting and basic prognosticating.

Scoop is working up an article on hippomancy.

More than you wanted to know about Tommy John surgery

Will Carroll, Cub fan extraordinaire, describes Tommy John surgery in a lot of detail.

Reminds me of the many hours of "Labor and Delivery" that I watched with my wife when she was pregnant with little Rowdietta.

Faneca in the spotlight

That was a fun quote, but who knew the national media would get all over it, as Mike Bires reports.

I like Alan Faneca a lot and found the quote endearing. It also made me feel old, but so what.

...Alan appears to have been one of the five selected to make up ProFootballWeekly's "ultimate O-line." Congratulations to him.

Local sports radio

Bob Smizik reviews your sports talk options in the Pittsburgh area.

other Ohio Ben shut down

Johnny V won't pitch again this year. Get some rest, big guy, and spend the offseason studying your tapes and working on your Roger Clemens-style excel spreadsheets with all your data about hitters and pitches and your workouts.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Ty Wigginton

Ty has been hitting better lately. His fielding has been better for us than it was for the Mets, too.

Wigginton is a guy who consistently outperforms the rather low expectations people have for him. And he's as streaky as they come.

I'm comfortable with him on the roster for 2005. He's a valuable player. Perhaps not as an everyday starter, but certainly in a Rob Mackowiak-type role.

That said, we have too many guys like this. Maybe we'll trade one of them in the offseason.

HW Picks: week 2 results

Horse sense prevailed as Scoop finished 10-6, Bones 7-9, and Rowdy 7-9 in week two. The best bet standings were reversed again, with Rowdy going 3-3, Bones 1-2, and Scoop 1-2.

Overall, Scoop runs his record to 21-11, Bones to 17-15, and Rowdy sits at 16-16. With best bets, Rowdy leads at 5-4, followed by Bones at 3-3. Scoop owns last at 2-4.

All hail Zach Duke and Brad Eldred

Winners of the organization's minor-league player of the year awards.

It's nearly time to make room for Brad Eldred on the 40-man roster.

No worries about Roethlisberger

When rookie and other backup quarterbacks step into a starting job, it doesn't concern me. You have to wait and see. They don't all fail from the start. I believe Cowher when he says he has confidence in Ben. I will too. If he falls on his face, looks tentative, completes 30% of his passes, throws three picks for every TD, etc., then I'll change my mind. Right now, though, he's good until proven bad.

I'm glad Ed Bouchette wrote this one because I was thinking the same thing and he's spared me the trouble. Some QBs are good from the start. Others have to work to be good. Others will never be good. It's the same thing with baseball prospects. We won't know what we've got with Ben until he's played four or six games. In the meantime, I expect some fun finding out.

...I also agree with Sean Lahman's take on the situation. He's very right to point out that Roethlisberger has an unusually strong supporting cast. Judging from Alan Faneca's comments earlier in the week, I think we can assume that the o-line will bring an A game next week.

Financial woes

A number of fans are pissed off, as we see in Paul Meyer's mailbag, by their perception of Dave Littlefield using the "financial woes" excuse.

I've said before this is a real loser. Fans find such talk repulsive. We shouldn't hear this from anyone who works for or administrates the team. Not Mac, not Dave Littlefield, not anyone else. Let the sports writers and fans bitch about it.

I didn't hear the comments DL made that sparked those letters to Paul Meyer but it's pretty obvious that his choice of words could have been better.

If you want to get engaged but can only afford to spend $400 on the ring, do you get down on one knee and talk about your financial woes?

This should be common sense. I blame Bud Selig for this whining epidemic, but I won't get into that now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Faneca the Nanny

Alan Faneca:

Co-captain Alan Faneca sounded less than thrilled when he discussed the prospect of a rookie leading the charge against the Dolphins.

"Exciting?" Faneca replied to a question with disbelief in his voice, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. "No, it's not exciting. Do you want to go work with some little young kid who's just out of college?


Faneca: 6' 5", 307 pounds, 27 years old. Roethlisberger: 6' 5", 241 pounds, 23 years old.

You can vote for Jason Bay presents an article for Bay and an article for Greene with a poll. Eagle writes:

Pirates left fielder Jason Bay should be an absolute lock to win the 2004 National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Offensively, Bay has no peers in his class. Despite missing the first month of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, Bay leads all Major League rookies in home runs (24), RBIs (75), slugging percentage (.576) and OPS (.946). He's also ranked third in batting average (.294) and second in on-base percentage (.370).

Comparing Bay to this year's crop of first-year players really doesn't do him justice. Bay has quietly -- apparently too quietly, considering the amount of national exposure he has received -- put together a season that few rookies have ever matched at the plate.  

Bay's .576 slugging percentage ranks third all-time among National League rookies. His ratio of one home run for every 15 at-bats ranks second all-time for rookies in the history of the Senior Circuit.

By hitting his 24th home run of the season Sunday, Bay broke a Pirates rookie record which had been set by Johhny Rizzo in 1938 and matched by Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in 1946. Considering all-time great sluggers such as Barry Bonds and Willie Stargell got their start in the Steel City, it's a pretty remarkable achievement.

Bay isn't just having a nice year at the plate -- he's lapping the competition.

While his offensive production has been impressive, Bay certainly is not a one-dimensional player. His defense has been nearly as spectacular as his hitting. If you don't believe me, just ask the Mets. This past weekend alone, he made two leaping catches at the fence to rob New York hitters of home runs. He also made a diving grab with two runners on in the ninth inning to preserve a tie score.

Overall, Bay's defensive numbers stack up with just about any outfielder in the National League, rookie or otherwise. His .990 fielding percentage is good for eighth in the league. Because he has the speed to play center field, and may switch to that position someday, Bay easily patrols the spacious PNC Park left-field expanse.

I couldn't have said it better.

Read both articles, take counsel in wine, sleep on it, make up your mind over a glass of water, and then make sure you vote in the poll.

Maddox done

That's the way it sounds to me. Mike Bires reports for the Beaver County Times.

Who should the Steelers sign as our third QB?

Brian O'Neill has hope

Excellent column from the Stats Geek today.

I'm disappointed in the overall win-loss record, but I'm also optimistic.

As for Redman, I say bring him to spring training and see what he does. If he hits like he does in the second half of 2003 or 2004, let him start. If he doesn't, don't wait to replace him. Make him force his way into the everyday lineup. Craig Wilson did it. Redman can too.

Jason Bay for Rookie of the Year

The Canadian deserves it, as Ed Eagle reports.

Those who would discount Bay's value since he plays left should remember that leftfield is big and difficult to play in PNC. Bay's "replacement value" would be a player with an ability to play center (which Bay can) or right. The Pirates can't stick a good-hitting statute in left field the way some clubs can.

Tommy John

Ed Eagle reporting on Burnett's date with the surgeon.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Now way under the radar

Looking ahead at Week 3 of the NFL, I see only two games - 0-2 Houston at 0-2 Kansas City, and 0-2 Arizona at 2-0 Atlanta - that will be less interesting to the general non-fan public than next week's Pittsburgh at Miami matchup. Pittsburgh at Miami has a nice old-time ring to it, but that's it, right, the rings are old. The Steelers will be 1-1, coming off a rout, and starting a rookie QB on the road against an 0-2 Miami team. Cincinnati is obviously the new story in the AFC North and they'll host Baltimore. Like the Pirates, the Steelers will find themselves playing in Meaningless Games if they don't pull it together and win and fast.

I forgot how much I dislike watching Tommy Maddox play when the Steelers aren't playing well. He's a good QB, I think, and someone we can win with, but he's always on the ground at the end of the play and he's always jumping up with some kind of painful grimace. Or some other kind of loserish body language. He exudes glum. At least that's what I saw on the TV today.

It's not good to start a rookie QB in the NFL, but Roethlisberger will, pretty obviously I think, be a good QB pretty soon. I'll enjoy watching the Steelers with rookie Ben even if the national viewing public would rather watch the Lions or the Bengals. Even if the Steelers lose 55% of their games with struggling rookie Ben, I think I'd enjoy those games.

I may be wrong here, but if Philadelphia wins tomorrow, would the Eagles at the Lions be the only week 3 game involving two undefeated teams?

A few more Steeler rants. I hate the end around and the fake end around. I don't care what the rationale is, they are hail-mary-type poor percentage plays. When the team needs to get back into a game, that's not the time to run bullshit deception plays. If you can't establish the straight-ahead run, why try some kind of end around? The small chance of big momentum does not outweigh the great chance of further and ever-more-damaging humiliation.

And what the hell was the razzle-dazzle punt formation that earned us a delay of game penalty? I thought that garbage left town with Mike Mularkey.

And whatever happened to playing to win the field position battle? Trying 48-yard field goals into the wind against Baltimore? What the hell was that?

Polamalu and Colclough looked good out there to me today, but they also look small. That's not necessary a bad thing.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

How sweep it is

Bay hit his 24th homer, collected 75th RBI, and Dave Williams pitched another gem as the Bucs take two from the dread Mets.

All hail Ryan Vogelsong

Finishing like he started.


This isn't going well.

Denver's zone-blocking offense

Sean Lahman at the Football Project has a good report on the zone-blocking Denver offensive line. He credits the Broncos for developing a system and succeeding by drafting running backs who fit the system. This, however, looks like a hole in the argument:

All too often, teams turn to a kid who was a dominant college rusher and presume that he can replicate that success in the NFL. They figure that the way to build a good rushing attack is to find a great runner and build an offense around him.

Is that really the case? I mean, recently at least? It's a "straw man" paragraph. I read Lahman's article a day or two ago, and while I really enjoyed it at the time, I've also been thinking about it since then and realize this is a good opening to write another post about the all-importance of offensive line play.

First, let's consider the suggestion that other teams don't draft backs to fit a system but, "too often," create systems to fit the backs they drafted. The only three backs taken in the first round of the 2004 draft were Steven Jackson, Chris Perry, and Kevin Jones, and all fit a pre-existing system. Mike Martz, who selected Jackson to serve as Faulk's understudy, can hardly be described as a guy who lacks a consistent offensive philosophy or fails to develop systems. And as Len Pasquarelli has recently reported, Jackson fits right in and looks ready to succeed. Head coach Marvin Lewis took Chris Perry, who is now injured (bum hammy), to back up Rudi Johnson. Perry and Johnson are patient one-cut bulldozers and look like twins when you compare them to juke-and-jazz Corey Dillon. The Lions went into the draft looking for speed and took Kevin Jones, a former track guy. If we are to take press conferences seriously, they traded up to get Jones because, looking out from within their system, they saw him as the #1 guy.

Seriously, a NFL team would have to be grossly incompetent to draft as naively as Lahman suggests toward the end of that essay. I'm not saying that doesn't happen. But it is an exaggeration to praise Denver as one of only a few teams that drafts running backs to fit. Lahman is right that Denver doesn't look for brusing power (Perry) or blazing speed (Jones) and yet continue to succeed, but I think every team these days has a philosophy or system that significantly colors their choice of backs. Denver stands out not so much for having a system but for having one that works and works well.

Still, Denver's continued success with a zone-blocking offensive line depends not so much on the choice of backs but on the stability and excellence of their offensive line. It's not Griffin who needs to be the savvy draft choice so much as it's George Foster, their high draft pick from 2003 who is starting and playing for the first time this year. When evaluating a running game, you put the cart before the horse if you look at the backs first and the line second.

Last week, the Denver o-line began the year with dirty Tom Nalen at center, veteran guards Hamilton and Neil, and versatile tackle Matt Lepsis, four guys who have been with the team and in the system for some time. The newcomer was rookie right tackle George Foster. As a unit, they played up to the level they've established for themselves over the last ten years. This doesn't surprise me; Shanahan emphasizes the o-line more than most coaches. Coming into the season, many observers were interested to see if the O-line would continue to play as well after they lost their hall-of-fame offensive line coach, Alex Gibbs, to Atlanta.

The jury is still out on rookie tackle George Foster. As Andrew Mason writes for, the Jaguars are the team to test Denver's line. I read that report - published Friday - and now think there's no way the Broncos will have as much success on the ground this week. Also, making Denver - a road favorite - a best bet to prevail over this Jaguar D-line, looks stupid to me now. It was a sucker bet, and I'll live with the consequences.

More to play winter ball

Shelly Anderson reports in her notebook that Mike Johnston, Daryle Ward, and Ryan Vogelsong may play winter ball.

If Vogelsong goes to winter ball, perhaps they plan to convert him to relief work? He's already made a ton of starts this year and I wonder if they'd send him to winter ball to start some more. Even Oliver Perez worked as a reliever when he played winter ball last year ...

Talk like a Pirate day

Today's the day, dog. Time to say things like, "Dave Littlefield doesn't respect all the hard work I put in to rehab that injured finger," which translates, I guess, as "Dave Littlefield doesn't respect all t' hard work I put in t' rehab that injured fin'er."